Here is yet another operatic masterpiece reborn thanks to Juan Bautista Otero and his splendid Réal Compania Opera de Camara. 'Aminta, il re pastore' is an extraordinary work which the famed castrato Farinelli commissioned from the Bolognese composer Mazzoni after the huge success of his two operas produced in Lisbon, 'La clemenza di Tito' and 'Antigono'. Faithfully following Metastasio's original libretto, Mazzoni composed here a sublime opera seria in 3 acts, shorter than usual, with a blend of pathos, delicacy of expression and virtuosity that gives a marvelously complete picture of what one might call 'the Farinelli sound'.
Pinchgut Opera presented one of the glories of the French baroque for the first time in Australia. Castor & Pollux is Rameau's finest creation. It's a story based in mythology about the self-sacrificing love between two brothers. The music goes straight to the heart. With some of the most beautiful vocal and orchestral writing of the period, the opera was an instant hit when it was first presented.
The labels that are now gathered under the Universal Classics umbrella have a pretty impressive scorecard in the area of classical compilations. We've seen The Greatest Opera Show on Earth, The Yellow Guide: Classical Music, Best of the Millennium, and now there's The No. 1 Opera Album. But that's no surprise, since Universal has some of the finest interpreters in its catalogue to draw from. This two-CD set (at the price of one), for example, brings together the likes of Cecilia Bartoli, Renée Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, and many more. Yet the other key to a successful compilation is canny anthologizing, and here again, you have a nice selection to give you a smattering of opera's heavyweights from the Italian, German, and French repertory (there's even a step outside the standard framework with an aria from Dvorák's lovely Rusalka). Ranging from 1959 to 1997, the choices from back catalogue will doubtless be the entry ticket for many into this grandest of the arts.
Two masses, a handful of motets, and two chansons are all that remains of the oeuvre of a composer regarded by the theorist Johannes Tictoris as one of the most important of his generation. The Clerks' Group's expertise in the 15th-century repertoire has received many accolades. Here, the group once again displays its exceptional competence in the service of the outstanding works by one of the period's most original composers.
Given its premiere by The Royal Ballet in 1965 with Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn dancing the title roles, Kenneth MacMillan's first full-evening ballet has become a signature work for the Company, enjoying great popularity around the world. From the outset, the production teems with life and colour as the townspeople, market traders and servants of the rival Montagues and Capulets go about their daily business in vibrant crowd scenes. But Romeo and Juliet take centre stage for those great pas de deux: the meeting in the ballroom, the balcony scene, the morning after the wedding and the final devastating tomb scene. Although The Royal Ballet has performed Romeo and Juliet over 400 times, each performance and pairing is subtly different and Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli are utterly captivating in the title roles.
Béatrice et Bénédict, Berlioz's last completed work, is based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, but the libretto, by the composer, dispenses with most of the intrigue of the original and reduces the plot to a single premise: Béatrice et Bénédict mask their affection for each other by squabbling, and then finally come to their senses and get married. Although designated an opera, it is closer in effect to an opéra comique because of its very extensive use of spoken dialogue.